Category Archives: Political

A Diary of Two Parliaments – 29 April 1874

 

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Over the coming weeks and months we are publishing excerpts from the book ‘A Diary of Two Parliaments’ by Henry W Lucy, published in 1885. A popular book in our library, it covers the parliament of the Disraeli government during the years 1874-1880.

Catch-up with other posts in this series here, or search our library here.

The Disraeli Parliament 1874-1880

 Wednesday 29 April 1874

GERMS OF OBSTRUCTION
First Appearance of Major O Gorman,

House discussing question of purchase of Irish railways. 

When it was believed the debate had finished, it being close on midnight, Major O’Gorman, newly elected for Waterford, rose from a back seat below the gangway. The Major, who is of gigantic stature and burly to boot, stood a few minutes speechless in full view of the House. A titter rose from the Ministerial benches, which broke forth into a roar of laughter when Major O’Gorman suddenly and angrily cried, “Mr. Speaker!”

When the outburst had partially subsided, the hon. member said he was about to vote against the motion, and could not do it without a word of explanation; the word was that if the English Government got hold of the railways there would not at the end of three weeks be an Irishman in the service of any of the lines. The House laughing again at this hot utterance, he repeated and emphasised his observation by declaring that in three weeks all the Irishmen on the line would be “sent to hell or Connaught.” This brought up the Speaker, and Major O’Gorman having, with considerable difficulty, been made to understand that he must temporarily sit down, the right hon. gentleman reminded him that he had “exceeded the usual licence of Parliamentary debate.” Major O’Gorman showed a disposition to argue the matter with the Speaker, affirming, amid shouts of laughter, that the expression he had made use of was “perfectly well known.” Finally, he “offered his sincere regret” if he had said what he should not have said, though, he added, “it is perfectly historical.”

He then proceeded to observe that he “was not a Hellenist, and need not change his sex and become a Cassandra in order to be able to prophesy that with three weeks of English management the Irish railways would be ruined.” Next he volunteered an anecdote. “It’s not a bad story,” said he; but all the House could make out was a reference to a horse which a Lord Lieutenant was riding with a distinguished man, and was “thrown over his ears.” In conclusion, the Major, whilst declaring “his sincerest respect for that most talented young gentleman who had introduced the motion,” repeated that he would not be able to vote with him, his maxim being, “On all occasions vote against the introduction of Englishmen to Ireland.” Major O’Gorman’s remarks brought the debate to a close, and upon a division the motion was negatived by 241 votes against 56.

Excerpt from A Diary of Two Parliaments by Henry W Lucy published in 1885

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Further Reading and External Links

The Author – Henry W Lucy on Wikipedia

Benjamin Disraeli on Wikipedia

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Attire

 

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  This is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Attire

In those days the men used to dress in cloth trousers and tunic with buttons. The men used to embroider their collars and their fronts with most elaborate and beautiful designs. They had two hats, a black hat and a white hat, which they made themselves. The black hats were made of straw covered with duck and painted. Many a man has lost his life aloft in trying to save his heavy black hat from being blown away.

The fashion of wearing hair on the face was to cultivate luxuriant whiskers, and to “leave a gangway,” which meant shaving upper lip, chin and neck. Later, Mr. Childers introduced a new order: a man might shave clean, or cultivate all growth, or leave a gangway as before, but he might not wear a moustache only. The order, which applied to officers and men (except the Royal Marines) is still in force.

Steam was never used except under dire necessity, or when entering harbour, or when exercising steam tactics as a Fleet. The order to raise steam cast a gloom over the entire ship. The chief engineer laboured under considerable difficulties. He was constantly summoned on deck to be forcibly condemned for “making too much smoke.” 

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Cursing

Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  This is another installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Cursing

Seamen often curse and swear when they are aloft furling or reefing sails in a gale of wind; but I have never heard a sailor blaspheme on these occasions. Their language aloft is merely a mode of speaking. Although in the old days I have heard men blaspheme on deck, blasphemy was never heard aloft in a gale. To be aloft in a whole gale or in a hurricane impresses the mind with a sense of the almighty power of the Deity, and the insignificance of man, that puny atom, compared with the vast forces of the elements. In later life, I once said to a young man whom I heard using blasphemous language in a club: “If you were up with me on the weather yard-arm of a topsail yard reefing topsails in a whole gale, you would be afraid to say what you are saying now. You would see what a little puny devil a man is, and although you might swear, you would be too great a coward to blaspheme.”

And I went on to ram the lesson home with some forcible expressions, a method of reproof which amused the audience, but which effectually silenced the blasphemer.

The fact is, there is a deep sense of religion in those who go down to the sea in ships and do their business in the great waters. Every minister of God, irrespective of the denomination to which he belongs, is treated with respect. And a good chaplain, exercising tact and knowing how to give advice, does invaluable service in a ship, and is a great help in maintaining sound discipline, inasmuch as by virtue of his position he can discover and remove little misunderstandings which cause discontent and irritation. The discomforts of the Old Navy are unknown to the new. The sanitary appliances, for instance, were placed right forward in the bows, in the open air. If the sea were rough they could not be used. On these occasions, the state of the lower deck may with more discretion be imagined than described. As the ship rolled, the water leaked in through the rebated joints of the gun-ports, and as long as a gale lasted the mess-decks were no better than cesspools. It is a curious fact that in spite of all these things, the spirits of both officers and men rose whenever it came on to blow; and the harder it blew, the more cheery everyone became. The men sang most under stress of weather; just as they will to-day under the same conditions or while coaling ship. After a gale of wind, the whole ship’s company turned-to to clean the ship.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Naval Discipline Act

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  This is the tenth installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – Naval Discipline Act

Very great credit is due to Admiral Sir William Martin, who reformed the discipline of the Fleet. The Naval Discipline Act was passed in [1861]; the New Naval Discipline Act in [1866]. In [1871] a circular was issued restricting the infliction of corporal punishment in peace time. Flogging was virtually abolished in [1879]. (Laird Clowes’ The Royal Navy, vol. 7.) Now we have proper discipline and no cat. In former days, we had the cat but no proper discipline.

The men were granted very little leave. They were often on board for months together. When they went ashore, there they remained until they had spent their last penny; and when they came on board they were either drunk or shamming drunk. For drunkenness was the fashion then, just as sobriety is, happily, the fashion now. In order to be in the mode, a man would actually feign drunkenness on coming aboard. In many a night-watch after leave had been given have I superintended the hoisting in of drunken men, who were handed over to the care of their messmates. Today, an intoxicated man is not welcomed by his mess, his comrades preferring that he should be put out of the way in cells. It was impossible to keep liquor out of the ship. Men would bring it aboard in little bladders concealed in their neckties. Excess was the rule in many ships. On Christmas Day, for instance, it was not advisable for an officer to go on the lower deck, which was given up to license. I remember one man who ate and drank himself to death on Christmas Day. There he lay, beside a gun, dead. Other cases of the same kind occurred in other ships.

The rations were so meagre that hunger induced the men constantly to chew tobacco. For the same reason I chewed tobacco myself as a boy. Nor have I ever been able to understand how on such insufficient and plain diet the men were so extraordinarily hardy. They used to go aloft and remain aloft for hours, reefing sails, when a gale was blowing with snow and sleet, clad only in flannel (vest) serge frock and cloth or serge trousers, their heads, arms and lower part of their legs bare. Then they would go below to find the decks awash in a foot of water, the galley fire extinguished, nothing to eat until next meal time but a biscuit, and nothing to drink but water.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

A Diary of Two Parliaments – 24 April 1874

 

Over the coming weeks and months we are publishing excerpts from the book ‘A Diary of Two Parliaments’ by Henry W Lucy, published in 1885. A popular book in our library, it covers the parliament of the Disraeli government during the years 1874-1880.

Catch-up with other posts in this series here, or search our library here.

The Disraeli Parliament 1874-1880

Mr Smollett attacks the Late Premier

Friday 24th April 1874

Houses of ParliamentWhen at five o’clock Smollett rose, in accordance with notice to call the attention  of the House of Commons to “the abrupt dissolution of the late Parliament,” and to move a resolution, there was present only such a House as is customary on Friday evenings, when a private member is availing himself of the privilege of airing a grievance on going into Committee of Supply. A quarter of an hour earlier Gregory had, by a speech on probate in England, Scotland, and Ireland, driven the bulk of the members away. But they came flocking back as the news spread through the lobbies that Smollett really was moving his resolution, and that Gladstone was on the Treasury bench taking notes, with the obvious intention of replying.

Smollett set out with the declaration that he was not working in conjunction with any party, nor was he expecting sympathy from either Ministers or the Opposition. The former were, he declared, too well satisfied with the position in which the dissolution had landed them to interpose, and the other too fully impressed with the wisdom of not crying over spilt milk, to complain of “the political madness of Mr. Gladstone,” or to bewail their own “condition of political disorganisation.”

This way of speaking, the plainness of which was considerably augmented by a certain brusqueness of manner, raised a laugh on the Conservative benches. Thus encouraged, Smollett proceeded to indulge in “a short historical retrospect of the Session,” the dramatic interest of which he somewhat damaged by declaring at the outset that it was designed to prove that Gladstone had “organised a dissolution in secret, and sprung it upon the House.” It was not, he was careful to state, for the sake of the late House of Commons that he was moved to protest. He had not himself belonged to that House, had “never thought much of it,” and had even seen it referred to as “an assembly of soap boilers.” But the facts did not lessen his indignation against Gladstone and his colleagues, whom, in the course of his speech, he accused of “having, by unworthy, improper, and unconstitutional methods, tried to seize power of having “acted in a manner that was ungenerous to their friends, insolent to their enemies, and to the country at large barely honest;” whose conduct he variously described as “indecent,” as “utter wantonness,” as a “device,” an “artifice” a “plot,” a “pious fraud,” as “sharp practice more likely to have come from a sharp attorney’s office than from a Cabinet of English gentlemen.” To account for all of which the most charitable suggestion that offered itself was that “the late Ministry had lost their wits, and were not responsible agents.”

To this, members on the Conservative side listened with appreciative laughter and applauding cheers, and only once when Smollett declared, speaking of Gladstone, that “the stratagem had recoiled on the head of the trickster” did indignant cries of  “Order!”  from the Liberal benches interrupt the speaker.

When Smollett sat down, Gladstone half rose from his place, but there appeared a prospect of his speech remaining unspoken. No one had seconded the resolution, and no response came in reply to the Speaker’s demand for the name of the seconder. At the second appeal from the chair, however, Whalley came forward, hat in hand, from the obscurity of a corner under the Strangers’ Gallery, and said,

“I beg to second it.”

A great roar of laughter and cheers followed upon this unexpected apparition. It was some moments before silence was restored, and the Speaker found an opportunity for putting the motion from the chair. Then Gladstone appeared at the table, and was greeted by long and loud cheering from the benches behind him and below the gangway. In tones of grave mockery he declared that, as the motion had been supported by “two such distinguished members” as the proposer and seconder, he felt it his duty to lose no time in replying to it. In the same tone of grave banter, hugely relished by both sides of the House, Gladstone, whilst admitting that Smollett had the support of a name that stood high in historical literature, took exception to the date of the “historical retrospect” which they had listened to. “What he calls history I call romance,” said he, and, with a half apology for treating the matter seriously, he proceeded at some length to contradict and disprove the serious allegations “which appeared amid the jokes and the invective of the hon. member. “The main statement, to the effect that the Ministry had early in January determined upon the dissolution announced in the last week of the month, and had secretly informed their supporters of their intention, with the view to their obtaining advantages at the hustings, Gladstone denounced as “not only untrue, but absurd; not only absurd, but impossible.” Coming to the passage in which Smollett had stigmatised her Majesty’s late Ministers as “tricksters,” he, pointing over to the place where Smollett sat, called out, in a loud voice,

“Let the hon. member rise in his place and say whether he still holds to the utterance of the word ‘trickster.'”

He paused a moment, and Smollett, standing on his feet, said hurriedly,

“I shall not rise again from my seat.” The House laughed at the “bull” but it became hushed as Gladstone protested his scorn for a man who, when challenged, had “not the decency, had not the manliness, to reply, but took refuge in ignoble silence from the consequence of his act.” A prolonged cheer from the Liberal benches followed, and when Gladstone spoke again it was in a quiet, subdued manner. Thenceforward his speech resolved itself into an elaborate defence of the course taken by the Cabinet in dissolving Parliament, and comprised an historically interesting statement of his personal views and feelings in the last critical moments of his Premiership.

When Gladstone had finished, he, amid loud cheers, walked out of the House, and Whalley presented himself, this time from a seat behind the front
Opposition bench. His naive confession, that he had “scarcely read the resolution he had seconded,” caused great laughter, which became quite boisterous when he said he was very glad to have the opportunity of commenting upon the inconvenience occasioned to candidates for election and re-election by the suddenness of the dissolution, adding, “It found me in prison”  When, finally, Whalley sat down, there was a pause, and all eyes were turned towards the Treasury bench, where Disraeli sat with folded arms and downcast eyes. Showing no signs of intention to interfere in the matter, Sir George Bowyer rose amid deprecatory cries. It transpired that he wanted Smollett to withdraw his resolution, but the Liberals opposing to his suggestion a determined shout of “No!” the question was formally put from the Chair and negatived.

Excerpt from A Diary of Two Parliaments by Henry W Lucy published in 1885

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Further Reading and External Links

The Author – Henry W Lucy on Wikipedia

Benjamin Disraeli on Wikipedia

 

A Diary of Two Parliaments – 23 April 1874

We are publishing excerpts from the book ‘A Diary of Two Parliaments’ by Henry W Lucy, published in 1885. A popular book in our library, it covers the parliament of the Disraeli government during the years 1874-1880.

Catch-up with other posts in this series here, or search our library here.

The Disraeli Parliament 1874-1880

Mr Gladstone Criticises the Budget

Thursday 23rd April 1874

Houses of ParliamentThe appearance of the House of Commons at half-past four betokened a condition of high expectancy. Every seat in the body of the House was appropriated, and members overflowed into the galleries, a double row facing the Opposition benches indicating that the speaker looked for would rise from that side. The gallery over the clock was densely crowded, amongst the numerous peers present being Earl Granville. Both the front Opposition bench and the Treasury bench were filled, a notable addition to the occupants of the former being Gladstone, who has not of late been very constant in his attendance upon the debates.

As has been his custom this Session, he sat several seats below the one usually filled by the leader of the Opposition, having Bright on his right hand and Childers on his left. The questions disposed of, Raikes, the Chairman of Committees, brought up the Report of the Budget; whereupon Gladstone rose, and was greeted by loud and prolonged cheering from the Liberal benches.

He commenced by observing that he was not about to enter upon a course of hostile criticism, and this pledge was, throughout a speech extending over three-quarters of an hour, kept, not alone in the general scope of his remarks, but in the manner of making them. He was studiously courteous to “my right hon. friend” Stafford Northcote, and most gentle in the utterance even of the strongest of his criticisms upon the financial policy of a Conservative Government.

Stafford Northcote, who followed, observed that, after such a speech, he felt scarcely called upon for an answer; and forthwith proceeded at great length, and in somewhat wearisome detail, to reply.

Excerpt from A Diary of Two Parliaments by Henry W Lucy published in 1885

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Further Reading and External Links

The Author – Henry W Lucy on Wikipedia

Benjamin Disraeli on Wikipedia

 

A Diary of Two Parliaments – 16 April 1874

Over the coming weeks and months we are publishing excerpts from the book ‘A Diary of Two Parliaments’ by Henry W Lucy, published in 1885. A popular book in our library, it covers the parliament of the Disraeli government during the years 1874-1880.

Catch-up with other posts in this series here, or search our library here.

The Disraeli Parliament 1874-1880

The Conservative Budget

Thursday 16th April 1874

Houses of ParliamentProbably on no occasion has the House of Conservative Commons been more crowded than it was tonight, when Stafford Northcote rose to disclose the financial proposals of the Conservative Government. Every seat in the body of the House was occupied, and a little throng stood at the bar. Members filled the double row of seats in the gallery opposite the Treasury bench, some, for lack of better accommodation, sitting on the steps of the gangway. The only place where seats were unoccupied was the back bench in the gallery opposite, and here an additional score of members would have filled it to overflowing.

The various galleries over the clock devoted to the accommodation of strangers more or less distinguished were early filled to their utmost capacity. Amongst other members of the Upper House present were the Earl of Airlie, Lord Stafford, Lord Annesley, Lord Carlingford, and the Earl of Devon, a country neighbour of the Chancellor of the Exchequer. Gladstone, who had not been present in the House throughout the week, prolonged his absence over to-night; but Bright was there, taking his seat on the front Opposition bench for the first time this Session. Lowe, Goschen, Childers, Forster, and Stansfeld were amongst the ex-Ministers present.

The full strength of the Ministry was displayed on the Treasury bench, Disraeli with his left hand swathed in a black silk bandage, suffering, it was said, from an attack of gout.

When the questions had been put and answered, the Premier rose, and Walking down the House faced about at the cross benches on the right-hand side, and stood there a moment or two whilst Stafford Northcote occupied the attention of the Speaker.

“Mr. Disraeli!” said the Speaker, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer had resumed his seat.

“A Message from the Queen” responded the right hon. gentleman, advancing, bowing to the chair, and handing in the document.

As he passed up the House all the members uncovered, and remained with bared heads whilst the Speaker read how the Queen, taking into consideration the momentous services rendered by Sir Garnet Wolseley in planning and conducting the Ashantee campaign, recommended her faithful Commons to grant him a sum of £25,000. Disraeli moved that the Message be referred to the Committee of Supply, and amid a buzz of conversation hats were with one consent replaced.

The buzz of conversation deepened into a cheer and then died away into profound silence, when, just on the stroke of five o’clock, the House having resolved itself into Committee of Supply, Stafford Northcote rose to make his speech.

Sir Stafford resumed his seat at twenty minutes to eight, after having spoken two hours and forty minutes. For the greater part of that time he, contenting himself with a plain business style of talking, managed to engross the attention of the Committee, though his hold was once or twice imperilled by a tendency to entertain the Committee with those replies to the arguments of deputations on the Budget, which he took credit to himself for refraining from delivering in the presence of the deputations themselves. During one of these somewhat frequent interludes, when he was replying at length to the arguments of the promoters of the repeal of brewers’ licences, the House began rapidly to thin. But, on the whole, he succeeded in maintaining the interest of his hearers; and the loud cheers that burst forth as he sat down did not all come from the Conservative benches.

Excerpt from A Diary of Two Parliaments by Henry W Lucy published in 1885

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Further Reading and External Links

The Author – Henry W Lucy on Wikipedia

Benjamin Disraeli on Wikipedia

 

A Diary of Two Parliaments – 5 Mar 1874

 

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Over the coming weeks and months we are publishing excerpts from the book ‘A Diary of Two Parliaments’ by Henry W Lucy, published in 1885. A popular book in our library, it covers the parliament of the Disraeli government during the years 1874-1880.  Below we cover the opening of the New Parliament.

The Disraeli Parliament 1874-1880

The Opening of New Parliament

Thursday 5th March 1874

Houses of ParliamentThe appearance this afternoon of Roebuck, Julian Goldsmid, Newdegate, and Muntz upon the long deserted floor of the House of Commons was so nearly simultaneous that it would be dangerous to claim for any one of them the high distinction of having been the first member of the ninth Parliament of Queen Victoria to enter upon the scene of his future labours. Absolutely the first comer was, however, amongst the four gentlemen named, and, though Parliament had been summoned to meet at two o’ clock, it was not far past noon when they were observed within the bar. Their entrance broke the spell which had seemed to hang over the place, and scarcely had they advanced midway up the floor than entered Charley, Torrens, Plimsoll, John Hay, Russell Gurney, followed at the briefest of intervals by Dilke, Macdonald, the working men’s member for Stafford, Charles Reed, and nearly the full roll of the House.

By half-past one the floor of the House was densely crowded, and those who had come earliest began to take their seats. Roebuck was already seated, selecting the second place on the front bench below the gangway on the Opposition side, where he held a sort of levee, old members coming up to shake hands with him, and young members obtaining an introduction to a man who had made his mark in the House whilst they were schoolboys. George Bowyer occupied the seat by the gangway next to Roebuck, but gave way presently when Brand, the Speaker of the late House, having passed through a troop of congratulatory friends, came up and claimed the position usually occupied by the Speaker-elect pending the moving and seconding of the proposition for his election.

Of the two parties the Conservatives were by far the more ready to take their seats, the benches to the right of the Speaker’s empty chair being, half an hour before the opening of Parliament, well filled. The Liberals for the most part stood and chatted in the throng on the floor of the House. The front Opposition bench was at this time tenantless, but Arthur Mills, the Marquis of Hamilton, and Colonel North were prominent upon the Treasury bench. On this same bench, but less noticeable by reason of their position under the shadow of the gallery, were Hubbard and Alderman Cotton, two of the members for the City of London, who were thus vindicating an old privilege pertaining to the City of having its members seated on the right hand of the Speaker, or at least at the right arm of the Speaker’s chair, upon the opening of a new Parliament….

Excerpt from A Diary of Two Parliaments by Henry W Lucy published in 1885

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Further Reading and External Links

The Author – Henry W Lucy on Wikipedia

Benjamin Disraeli on Wikipedia

 

A Diary of Two Parliaments – Intro – 1874

 

 

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Over the coming weeks and months we are publishing excerpts from the book ‘A Diary of Two Parliaments’ by Henry W Lucy, published in 1885. A popular book in our library, it covers the parliament of the Disraeli government during the years 1874-1880. Below covers a brief summary of events leading upto the formation of the Disraeli government in 1874.

A Diary of Two Parliaments – THE DISRAELI PARLIAMENT, 1874-1880.

Benjamin DisraeliOn the morning of the 24th of January, 1874, the nation was startled by learning that the Parliament of 1868 was forthwith to be dissolved. The announcement was made in the form of an address by Mr. Gladstone to the electors of Greenwich. “That authority,” he said, “which was in 1868 amply confided by the nation to the Liberal party and its leaders, if it has now sank below the point necessary for the due defence and prosecution of the public interests, can in no way be so legitimately and effectually restored as by an appeal to the people, who by their reply to such an appeal may place beyond all challenge two great questions—the first, what they think of the manner in which the commission granted in 1868 has been executed; the second, what further commission they now think fit to give to their representatives, and to what hands its fulfilment and the administration of the Government are to be entrusted.“A prolix narrative,” Mr. Disraeli called it when, two days later, he followed it up by the issue of an address to the electors of Buckinghamshire.

In the General Election which ensued the Liberal majority—116 when Parliament met in 1868, and reduced during the period of its existence to between 60 and 70—was entirely swept away, and Mr. Disraeli took office with a majority of 51. On the 5th of March the new Parliament was opened by Royal Commission.

Excerpt from A Diary of Two Parliaments by Henry W Lucy published in 1885

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Further Reading and External Links

The Author – Henry W Lucy on Wikipedia 

iTunes PodCast – East By West Vol One by Henry W Lucy – Free

John Wilson Croker – 1780-1857

 

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John Wilson Croker

Athenaeum Club LondonAmong the many services which Mr. Croker rendered to men of letters and to lovers of art, not the least important were the establishment of the Athenaeum Club and the acquisition of the Elgin Marbles for the British Museum.

The Athenaeum Club, which was founded a few years later than the period we have now reached, owes its origin almost entirely to Mr. Croker; and it was chiefly through his exertions that the Government and Parliament were induced to purchase the Elgin Marbles.

If he had done no other good in his generation, this would alone entitle him to the gratitude of posterity.  The speech which he made, in [1816], in favour of the purchase, advocated the encouragement by the State of the fine arts, and urged arguments, now familiar, but then little understood or appreciated by the public.  It elicited from Lord Elgin the following letter:

MY DEAR SIR , June 12, [1816].

I am wholly unable to express the obligation I feel for your kindness.  Hitherto I have only received the newspaper, and that a very hurried, account of the debate on the occasion of my marbles. But with what I know of the opinions you have on other occasions so powerfully maintained on all the points which could possibly be brought to bear in attack on the subject, I perceive in this hasty sketch, not only the well-informed and triumphant supporter of my cause, but the animated and, I may say, friendly vindication of my conduct.  It has ever been a source of great astonishment with me, that without its having earlier been at all an object of attention with you, you should, with such perfect ease, have made yourself master of the whole question, as much, I may venture to say, as it can be understood; and that you should at once have seized, with precision, details which one should imagine nothing short of personal inspection or professional study could have brought to particular notice.

That Mr. Hammersley, or any one else, with the evidence of the Committee before their eyes and in the hands of the public, should have reverted in the House of Commons to all the virulence and misrepresentation in which disappointed travellers may have indulged, while the facts were little known, is quite incredible. But it becomes a piece of no small good luck to me when repelled with as much accuracy as acuteness by a person who has used no advantages in his research, beyond what is equally within the reach of any gentleman in England sitting quietly by his own fireside.

A thousand thanks for your kindness, which has been throughout so very gratifying, as well as so beneficial to me, and believe me ever, with much respect and regard,

Yours, very faithfully,

Elgin

J.W. CROKER, Esq.

Mr. Croker had hitherto enjoyed an uninterrupted career of success; but in [1820] he was struck down by a calamity which darkened all his prospects.

Excerpt from The Quarterly Review – Volume 142 – published in 1846

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Further Reading and External Links

The Athenaeum Club 

John Wilson Croker Biography